A Conscious Conversation with Morgane Beernaert
In our latest Conscious Conversation we spoke to Morgane Beernaert, founder of the Ethical Fashion Guide (EFG), a platform which cuts out all the time consuming research and helps connect conscious consumers to ethical brands. Ethical Fashion Guide is an incredible resource to help you make more conscious choices this Christmas!
We would love to know a little about you and your background (a nice and easy one to start off with!)
I moved away from Brussels to London 5 years ago for my first ever job as a software developer. I quickly realised that dedicating absolutely all my time to this wasn’t for me and that I’d be much happier diversifying my activities by working on other projects that also matter and resonate with me. And that’s how the adventure with the Ethical Fashion Guide and then later on The Good Apparel started!
I feel like time is one of our most under-valued asset nowadays—one of the best decisions in my life was to take back control of it!
Have you always been interested in sustainable fashion? - Was there a stand out moment when you decided you wanted to help make supporting conscious brands easier for consumers?
I haven’t — I still remember little 16-yo me first coming to London and getting so hyped up about buying a pair of shoes at Primark for £6. So clearly, the learning curve has been pretty steep!
The first moment that kickstarted my entire journey towards a more ethical consumption was in an evening of 2012, when I innocently wondered what was the journey from cow to steak. I spent the evening and the following weeks researching, reading, watching what I could find on the subject, and ended up — unsurprisingly I suppose — giving up on meat all together. This was the first time I felt like some information had been deliberately hidden from me, which also created this new consumption pattern of doing my own research before putting any money on the table.
Can you describe what the Ethical Fashion Guide is and what inspired you to create it?
After feeling horrified when learning about the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, crying my eyes out while watching The True Cost and The World according to H&M, I decided to stop buying new clothes entirely. Yes, boycott seems to be my preferred type of activism!
A couple of years in, frustration started to settle as there were still some items I simply couldn’t find or buy second-hand, such as underwear. I started researching brands and ended up with a massive bookmark folder with all the brands I found that were doing things differently. I figured that I simply couldn’t be the only one looking for that information, so it was time for me to start acting towards contributing to make the fashion world a bit more ethical by sharing these happy findings!
Ethics are a very subjective thing though, as brands that tick all the boxes (in terms of aesthetics, eco-friendliness, slow fashion approach, locally made,…) are so far still rare to find—even if we’re slowly getting there! The EFG offers the possibility for people to “pick” brands by ethos, enabling them to prioritise what they value the most.
The Ethical Fashion Guide now lists more than 130 brands, with the hit-or-miss criteria being that the clothing has to be made under humane and fair conditions.
Would you like to tell us a little about The Good Apparel?
One of the most common barrier for people to go for responsible fashion instead of readily accessible fast fashion, is that often seems complicated, hard to find, and you’d need to shop from 6 different places to get 6 different types of pieces.
The Good Apparel is the practical solution for to shopping ethically without having to compromise on style, all under one (digital) roof!
77%* of people want to see who manufactured the products they buy — that’s why we’ve decided to turn our backs from the standard opacity reigning in the fashion industry, by going the complete opposite way: we share details about the factories and working conditions, and this, for every single item. We now have 40+ incredible brands on board, and are going to launch a conscious beauty section soon. (am I creating the store of my dreams? …I may be!)
*Consumer Survey Report, 2018, Fashion Revolution
Price is often mooted as a barrier for people wanting to buy sustainable products, more and more, consumers are realising this higher price is an honest representation and fairer reflection of the materials and craftsmanship that go into creating products. Considering the economic issues surrounding COVID19, can you offer any thoughts on how all of us can tackle this going forward and help more people become conscious consumers?
That is such a good point — and I am SO happy that more and more consumers are considering the human and environment cost of their purchases, rather than just its monetary cost.
Now, a piece of clothing that already exists is the most sustainable one, and often the most affordable one too (although Vestiaire Collective might beg to differ). Conscious fashion isn’t limited to shiny brands marketed as such — getting creative about reusing what’s already out there is the most radical thing you can do to make an impact, and will help you save money for that one piece you want to buy from an ethical brand.
For you, is shopping second hand as valuable as shopping sustainable brands?
Of course! I believe second-hand should be the very first place to look at, and if that’s unsuccessful, then going for new ethical brands.
If you had to describe your wardrobe in 3 words, what would they be?
Preloved. 90% of my wardrobe probably is!
Comfortable. Something that makes you feel confident and strong, without having to check on it every minute.
Detailed. A piece has more than once won me over for the shape of its buttons or tiny ruffles on the side!
Can you let us in on the conscious brands you are currently swooning over?
Shall I just send you my 300+ google sheet of brands? (Haha) There are just soooo many, but here are a couple to start with: I absolutely adore Pure by Luce for activewear, Alchemist and aiayu for timeless everyday pieces, 17h10 for delightfully cut suits, Mood Paris and Olly for lingerie (which we stock on The Good Apparel!). As a very short person, I’m also very curious about Petite Studio — their fabrics are not all sustainable, but I love their vintage-inspired style, and the idea of buying a dress without needing to systematically have it shortened seduces me quite much!
What's your Zodiac symbol? - Would you say your personality is typical to that star sign?
I am a Leo, which are supposed to be passionate, creative, dynamic and stubborn — oh well, I suppose that’s actually pretty accurate!
(yes, I purposely left out the arrogant and self-centered bits #sorrynotsorry)
Could you recommend any good books/podcasts/movies that you think our readers would find useful in their efforts to live more ethically?
The podcast “Wardrobe Crisis” hosted by Clare Press is my absolute favourite — she talks to brand owners, activists, designers and lots of other individuals, all involved into essentially making the world a better place. It is the most inspiring thing to listen to, and Clare Press is just a delightful hostess!
To read, I’d highly recommend Fashion Revolution’s fanzines. You know that time during a family dinner when you ran out of well-constructed arguments proving your point that the planet deserves protecting and that the fashion industry needs a massive reshape? Well, these fanzines are wealth of well-researched articles, so keep your pen close to take notes, and your eyes wide open, because the designs are quite worth it, too!
In terms of movies, I’d just recommend so, so much to keep learning about other ways of living, and that, every day. Living in our bubbles makes it so easy to forget that other people lead very different lives. So don’t stay in your comfortable information-ecosystem and go watch those documentaries about issues you have no clue of — that’ll not only make you such an eloquent and cultured guest at dinner parties, but most importantly: this keeps us empathetic, hyper-aware of the situation on other sides of the globe, and truly helps shift our priorities to contributing to the outside world — not just our little selves.
Can you offer some thoughts for consumers to consider when making the choice between sustainable and fast fashion?
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness”— Gandhi
I know that feeling of finding just the piece you were looking for, with just the right fit, and just the perfect colour. But I also strongly believe that fashion, as incredible as it can make us feel, is still too futile for people to die for. So, make sure to know where your pieces came from — and have Depop, Vinted, Shpock or whatever second-hand app is cool where you live, the very first place you look to when looking for something “new”. (The Ethical Fashion Guide or The Good Apparel can be second :D)